Pittsford, New York – Campground Owners of New York (CONY) reports that its staff and board of directors hosted 91 campgrounds and 25 vendors at informative, single-day Zone Meetings & Trade Shows, held March 27 through 30 in Queensbury, Kingston, Liverpool and Batavia, New York. Topics discussed ranged from Justice Department rulings on pool accessibility for the handicapped, to survey data, legislative issues, and summer marketing programs.

Clyde Taylor, president of Taylor Communications, served as Keynote speaker at each meeting, with an address entitled, “What If?...Lessons Learned from Entrepreneurs. They Can Guide Your Future Thinking.” Taylor’s presentation took a very candid look at the outdoor hospitality industry – specifically camping and RV parks in New York State – from an entrepreneur’s viewpoint, focusing on “what’s coming” in our industry and what owners, operators and managers should be doing to address both the opportunities and the challenges that lay ahead.

After each meeting, attendees could apply to be a part of a case-study of campground business operations Taylor will conduct this summer, with results to be revealed later this year.  Interest was high, and eight different operations will be selected to participate in the case-study.

Mike Papp, CONY Board President and owner of West Canada Creek Campsites in Poland, NY, appreciated Taylor’s speech. “Clyde has really challenged us to step up our game. We are not “just” a campground, we are an entrepreneurial business that generates a great deal of revenue and provides opportunities for other businesses in the areas where we’re located. (Taylor’s) presentation was inspiring and his new micro-focused case study should give us very exciting insights into our industry.”

Of particular interest to attendees at the Zone Meetings was the recent action by the U.S. Department of Justice, which issued a 60-day stay on the enforcement of new regulations regarding handicapped accessibility to pools and spas, while it collects more public comment on the issues of ramps and lifts. The regulations were implemented in 2010 as part of changes to the Americans With Disabilities Act, which require pools have two accessible means of entry (such as a ramp or lift) and that spas have lift systems for use by handicapped persons.

Donald G. Bennett, Jr., CONY President and CEO, informed attendees that survey data was being collected by both CONY and the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) in order to provide to the Justice Department comprehensive information on the financial and operational impact these rules have on camping businesses. The data would be provided to the Justice Department during its comment period. Attendees were encouraged to complete survey forms for collection at the end of Zone Meetings. The surveys focused mainly on the issues of lifts, with questions and topics including how often pool operators expected lifts to be used in their operations, what unforeseen consequences they expected from enforcement of pool lifts in their parks, projected liability issues expected from pool lifts, estimates of past inquiries/requests for pool lifts, and descriptions of their business operations (over/under $1 million receipts, number of employees, etc.).

Respondents to CONY’s pool lift survey (both at the Zone Meetings and through online data collection) indicate that, based on past experience, close to 85% expect pool lifts to be legitimately used one or less times per year, and 92.6% fear injuries from unintended use of lifts by children.

“We found that the majority of our respondents to the survey expect to incur more negatives than positives from mandatory enforcement of fixed pool lifts,” Bennett said after the meetings. “Our parks are especially concerned about the high costs of building and maintaining pool lifts compared to likely use, and what they see as a lack of clear-cut vision on types of lifts to be installed, and how – and by whom - pool lifts will be monitored, inspected and regulated.”   

Papp also points out, “CONY is very involved in what impacts our members and campground owners on a broad scale. The ADA pool lift issue is very confusing and causing a lot of heartache among park owners. We want to provide access and amenities that will serve our customers and provide a great experience, but we need more concrete guidance from DOJ.”

Also during the Zone Meetings, Bennett brought the membership up to speed on recent legislative issues of particular interest to campground operators. He reported that a large contingent of CONY members attended the tourism industry’s annual Tourism Action Day in Albany - the state’s capitol - on March 6th. There they had over 22 appointments with legislators to discuss current legislative bills related to eviction issues, dumping stations, membership park contracts, and also campground regulations within the Adirondack Park confines. Bennett noted that CONY’s lobbying efforts have spurred introduction of a new bill sponsored by Senator Betty Little and Assemblywoman Addie Russell, which would create a separate classification of the lien law to help give campground operators guidance on abandoned vehicles, equipment and possessions left on site.

Suzanne Bixby, CONY’s marketing and communications director, provided the marketing report at the meetings. She announced that the association had a full slate of summer marketing programs on tap for parks to benefit from, including the annual geocaching program, National Get Outdoors Day, the Camping+ Program: Value-Added Promotions, Packages and Discounts with CONY, and listing enhancement features on CONY’s new app for Apple and Android mobile devices.  Bixby also encouraged early sign-ups for the 2013 CONY shows program and 2013 directory advertising.

At each meeting, CONY staff announced a new fundraising program slated to kick off this summer. CONY is initiating its first-ever association-wide fundraiser benefiting Camp Good Days, a New York State-based organization providing camping experiences to children with cancer. Camp Good Days staff person James McCauley, Jr. attended each meeting and shared his personal stories of spending time with the children at the camps, and how it is sometimes heartbreaking, but always rewarding, touching and memorable for him and others that work or volunteer their time there.

According to Bixby, CONY members may help raise funds in a variety of ways.  “They can display change-collection jars, sell paper balloons and t-shirts, or host a fundraising event. Many campgrounds attending the meetings signed out paper balloons for sale at their parks this summer. We think this is going to be a great start to an annual charitable activity by CONY.”

Matt Anderson, a CONY director whose family owns Camp Chautauqua in Stow, NY, first approached the board of directors about doing a fundraiser for a deserving charity, and has assumed a leadership role in the planning efforts. “This is a very exciting event for CONY, to get notice and publicity,” Anderson recently stated. “Each campground can get advertising and noticed for taking part in something so important - helping kids go to camp to take their minds of their illness and afflictions. We will be taking part doing the Camp Good Days jar, selling balloons and t-shirts in my store, and a Chinese Auction. As we go through life every day dealing with problems, these precious children try to keep life!”

Ninety-one parks were represented at the four CONY Zone Meetings, including several prospective member parks. The morning trade show at each location welcomed 25 exhibitors with a range of products and services from insurance to imprinted goods and environmental products.

CONY staff and leadership vigorously and continually communicate with members through print and electronic newsletters, social media, personal visits to parks, the annual Spring Zone Meetings & Trade Shows, and annual Fall Exposition and Trade Show.

The 49th Annual CONY Exposition for the Outdoor Hospitality Industry will take place November 1 through 3, 2012, at the Six Flags Great Escape Lodge in Lake George, New York. The Exposition will feature timely educational sessions, a large trade show, a lobster and steak bake sponsored by Evergreen USA, and awards banquet. This year the Exposition theme is “Tailgate Party.” Attendees are encouraged to represent their favorite football team.  Attendees who bring their family can enroll their children in the supervised “Kids Club” activities, allowing parents time  to attend seminars and the trade show while their children are engaging in safe and fun activities. Families may also enjoy the indoor water park at the Great Escape Lodge.

Campgrounds (both members and prospects) and exhibitors are encouraged to attend. Contact the CONY office at (585) 586-4360 or info@nycampgrounds.com for more information. Rosemary Curtis of Hickory Hill Family Camping Resort is the Conference Chairperson.

Campground Owners of New York, founded in 1963, is an association dedicated to the promotion, growth, improvement and development of privately owned campgrounds in New York State. More information about the association and its campgrounds – including a free camping directory - is available at www.nycampgrounds.com

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